Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Blues for Over-Wintered Greens March 26, 2009

Filed under: edibles,winter — greenwalks @ 10:39 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

I know that over-wintering veggies and other edibles is a science. Someday, maybe I’ll bother to study it and then I won’t find myself wondering in the spring why I bothered.

My tendency is to buy starts in the fall or plant a few seeds, plunk them in the ground on the late side, and then watch it all sit there and do nothing all winter. Then, in the early spring, I spread some mulch, the temps start to warm up, things take off a bit, and then… most of it bolts during the two days I don’t bother to look at the garden.

Bolting Chinese mustard

Chinese mustard, probably on the spicy side when it was tiny – now it would probably singe our tongues off. Might have to look up recipes (alchemies?) for milder-izing it so it doesn’t end up being a total waste. A plus – the slugs ignored it entirely! Undoubtedly too spicy for them too.

Mesclun finally growing

Mesclun mix, probably one from Seeds of Change. Slowly, slowly… I think these might be salad-worthy in a couple of weeks.

Russian kale

Russian kale, starting to get a little bigger. Not sure what the ideal leaf length is for a good tasting harvest – I’ll have to hunt around for opinions, or please feel free to offer them here. I need recipes for this one too, but have also enjoyed it as an ornamental if nothing more, the filigreed leaf edges and delicate lavender ribs really get me.

Onion flower bud

I’m going to straight up admit that I just don’t get how to grow onions of any sort. I am too much of a numbskull to keep track of when they are to be planted and harvested, since it seems off from the rest of the garden. These might have been shallots at some point, they’re probably just compost now. Well, I’ll dig down and see what’s there. Maybe I’ll get a pleasant surprise.


Arugula, my favorite green and my one and only never-fail crop. Just put the seeds in whenever, it seems happy in any of my challenged gardens. A squirrel dug up half of the row and I never got around to re-planting it, but it has the best germination rate of any seed I’ve ever grown, no matter what company I get it from. If it’s all I grew, I would feel pretty invincible!

Volunteer Violas

First volunteer flowers of the season, my trusty violas. Last year it was ‘Ultima Morpho’ that was everywhere, but this one I can’t name and it has been popping up in the parking strip. I don’t usually bother to plant seeds or get starts of these anymore, they seem happy to keep coming back and I (almost) never say no to a free plant.

I had what I thought was a fun idea back in the fall, to plant ‘Bright Lights’ chard starts in a circle at the center of the veggie garden. They would grow tall, I would let them look really sculptural for a while until the peas needed to go in, all would be groovy. Well, between the squirrels rearranging the starts and killing a few, the snows that crushed the smaller plants, and now the cold spring we’ve been having so far, I’m afraid it’s time to pull out these sad little plants that never grew. I’m not going to show a picture, it’s just too pathetic.

What is your experience with over-wintering your veggie garden? Do you plant it up or let it rest? Put in a cover crop or use a cloche? I want to do it better next year or not at all!


11 Responses to “Blues for Over-Wintered Greens”

  1. Oh I am so glad to know that I’m not the only one to whom this sort of thing happens! My problem is one of attention span: I plant, then wait, and wait, and wait, and then…”what’s that’s shiny thing over there? I’d better go investigate…”

    And thus everything is forgotten until it’s too late to do anything about it. Ha.

  2. Michelle Says:

    Here’s what I do… start greens in late summer to harvest in fall and into winter (around here). The summer started greens all bolt when the days start to lengthen in early spring – that’s what they’re genetically programmed to do. I also start greens in early spring, February/March around here, to harvest in spring and summer. Some of the spring ones will bolt when the weather warms up and some will keep going (Cavolo Nero) through summer and fall and winter and then bolt the next spring.

  3. Jen Says:

    Last year I waited too long to harvest my mache and it was all eaten by deer. I guess that style of planting suits you – I think you have a terrific start there. That Russian Kale is one I’ll have to put on my list – so pretty -would look terrific accenting a flower bed. I don’t overwinter any veggies, but I will try some lettuce next time.

  4. Catherine Says:

    I don’t over winter anything in the veggie area except the herbs. I occasionally get some tomato volunteers, but that’s about it.

  5. Tracy Says:

    I usually steam kale with a tiny bit of water, balsamic vinegar and oil, usually olive. If I have cherry tomatoes I’ll throws those in too. I am ALWAYS amazed how much greens shrink down in cooking, so remember to add more than you think you’ll need.

    I never seem to get winter veg in early enough in the season to get established. I think the idea is to have a harvest-able size by the time winter comes. The hardy greens don’t grow much in winter, but because they survive the cold they basically just extend the harvest.

  6. fairegarden Says:

    Total and abject failure. I have given up and just plant in the spring, starting many things in the greenhouse, even lettuce, just to get a head start. We do plant pansies and violas in the fall with pretty good results of stronger plants come spring. As for the kale, I have not eaten it except when very small in salads. The chard, which I have started indoors then planted out is cooked much like spinach, removing it from the veins, chopping and sauteeing. One thing I have learned is to make a fort of rosemary cuttings, about a foot tall around the seed planting areas. The aroma seems to deter squirrels, cats and rabbits, and mice too.

  7. Karen,

    I don’t have much experience with over wintering the way most people do it- I guess. I start lettuce, corn salad, spinach, and some Asian greens (sometimes on the last one) and overwinter them in my cold frame. If my timing is just right they grow to a good size, but not too big (or they don’t survive the freeze/thaw over and over, except corn salad) and I winter harvest. People have asked me how are you gardening in the winter? I don’t, I harvest in the winter. By the time spring starts, the grown kicks in, but the crops I grow don’t bolt. Maybe because I continue to harvest the outer leaves, but when their young and tender- yum! These crops are finishing up as I have new starts ready to replace them. This year I have a small batch of ‘Tyee’ Spinach that I’m still eating off of and I just finished off the lettuce a couple weeks ago, I believe- I’ve put 2 rounds of replacement lettuce in and it’s ready to harvest the baby leaves. I’ve planted new spinach- a different variety- and it’s starting to get its true leaves.

    I read just the other day, that if you cut the stalks off of a green that has bolted- probably when they first start, you can extend the harvest. I’m not sure which varieties though, but I think they were Asian greens. Some of them also have wonderful tasting flowers!

    Happy spring to you- a time for a fresh start 🙂

  8. easygardener Says:

    Russian kale doesn’t grow very big so I think you could start picking the odd leaf now. I can’t overwinter salad stuff unless I cover it – it would get eaten by slugs and snails. I wonder if your mulch acts as a deterrent in some way. You have certainly got a fine crop of leaves there!

  9. Michele Says:

    you sound like me with the whole fall garden thing. I have tried many years and always have the same issues. Last fall I didn’t bother (except with garlic). I just know that come Dec-Jan, I don’t want to be trekking out there tending to frosty/snowy plants etc.

  10. Michele Says:

    PS> after reading some of your comments I see how folks suggested starting the winter greens in late summer. I have tried this, but my problem has always been keeping them adequately watered and babied. It is so blankety-blank hot in July and August that it is hard to keep up with it all. My parents live at a higher elevation where it is a shorter season and cooler and they grow wonderful carrots, brussel sprouts and greens for winter harvest.

  11. Jendi Says:

    Your greens look good! Way to go.

    The swap you went to really looks like fun also.

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